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Make Way for Ducklings — A Story from World Triathlon San Diego

Part I by Ian Kelly
Part II by Steven Pierce

Editor’s note: This story was shared with USA Triathlon following the World Triathlon San Diego, held May 11-12 at Mission Beach in San Diego, Calif. Thanks to the Triathlon Club of San Diego (TCSD) for sharing their story (from an event-related forum) and to Tyler Olson for sharing his photos of the duckling rescue.

TCSD member Ray Barrios swims the duckling to safety.
Part One:
After the Olympic-distance waves had set off, I walked over to the swim exit just in time to see a duck and her seven tiny ducklings dash across the racers' path; they made it across, no harm done.  Then a tiny eighth duckling came skittering along, well behind. By then, mom was in the water and paddling like mad to get away from the swimmers.  I tried (unsuccessfully) to get #8 reunited; mom was too far from shore. 

Enter TCSD's own Ray Barrios — he was getting ready for his race, scooped the duckling up, and headed out to open water with it. After several attempts (including a dash along the cove's shore), Ray managed to get them all back together, safe and sound — one of life's minor triumphs.  I'm really pleased to be in a sport and organization with such kind and ready-to-pitch-in people!

The family of ducks swims across the swim exit area.


Part Two: 

Ray... you're the man!  What a wonderful happy ending.

I was proudly also a part of the duckling story standing on the left side of the swim exit and cheering on the incoming swimmers. As I chatted with TCSD member Karen Northcutt, we were both surprised and tickled by the sudden appearance of a group of cute little ducklings hustling to keep up with their mother. They scurried between us and directly into the water. Before we could fully appreciate the natural beauty of the event, another single duckling appeared desperately trying to catch up. The mother was obviously stressed out and distracted with all the cheering and commotion and didn't notice she'd left one of her babies behind.

Without thinking, I scooped up the little one and dashed to the waters-edge trying to place him with his mother and siblings but my efforts were in vain. The little one had fallen too far behind and by then the mother with ducklings in tow, was already 15 yards off shore and moving very fast.

The rescue boat that helped Ray deliver the duckling to his family. The mother and all 8 ducklings swam off in the distance as Ray and the rescue boat owner watched, happy that they could put the little one back with his family.
Not knowing exactly what to do to reunite the straggler duckling with its mother, Ray stepped-up and volunteered to swim the little one out to its family. It was interesting to watch him do a modified back stroke flutter kick with one hand gently holding the duckling. As he slowly progressed out toward the buoy, the little duck accidentally slipped out of his hand.  Scared and confused, the duckling made a dash toward the rock jetty. Ray chased him but the ducklings speed was no match for Ray.

Still swimming, the little duckling was almost directly in the line of incoming swimmers. Ray shouted out, "Grab that duck," and one of the age group swimmers managed to scoop it up and hand it back to Ray.

By now the mother was almost completely out of sight, so Ray swam the tiny feathered bird back into shore. Thinking quick on his feet, Ray spotted a small boat anchored about 300 yards south of our position. He sprinted to the location with the duckling that by now was well on its way to imprinting Ray as being its mother. He persuaded the boat owner to join in the search and motoring into the bay to help create a happy ending with a duck family reunion.

ducklingsThe back and forth boat rescue mission was not without fanfare or dedication with the help of onshore bystanders (myself and others) who had an enviable vantage point and directed the rescue closer to the continuous motion of the mother and her ducklings. With hand signals that eventually led Ray, Ted, the boat owner and little duckling in the direction of the duck family, eventually he was able to reunite the little one with his mother and siblings.

What a great back story with a happy ending. Ray exemplifies TCSD and triathlon team spirit and dedication that eventually brought the little duckling back together with its family.